Wellness among older adults has traditionally been considered a physical goal of health and mobility, often achieved in a gym, pool, or fitness center. But senior living community operators are now tapping into the natural environment for resident wellness outdoor programming opportunities as well.
Today’s senior living population is more active into older age, and often engage in some type of physical activity as part of their lifestyle. A significant portion of seniors cite wellness programs as a deciding factor in choosing a senior living community, suggesting that wellness is increasingly important to both current and future residents.
In response to changing expectations, senior living communities are looking outdoors to enhance their resident wellness programming. Including exterior spaces such as walking trails, community gardens, exercise areas, and fitness stations not only serves to enhance residents’ physical health, but other areas of wellness as well.
Outdoor wellness programming in senior living environments has been proven to positively impact all areas of resident wellness. In this context, the term wellness takes into account the whole person, incorporating not just physical health, but also residents’ emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, social, and environmental well-being.
Open-air senior living environments now serve multiple purposes. A beautifully-landscaped community courtyard may double as a meditation garden or exercise area for yoga, tai chi, and other fitness classes. While focused on physical exercise, these activities also encourage social interaction and serve to enhance residents’ emotional, spiritual, and environmental wellness. Flower gardens maintained by community residents can be used for social and emotional wellness, or to visually enhance interior spaces by bringing nature indoors.
Recreation areas for lawn games such as bocce ball and croquet, or shuffleboard and pickle ball courts, target residents’ physical health, yet also enhance their social, occupational, and environmental wellness. Intentionally designed exterior spaces, like walking trails with fitness stations, offer less strenuous activity than lawn games but create equally impactful environmental and social experiences.
Outdoor cooking and dining present additional opportunities for senior living wellness programming. Open-air cooking classes and demonstrations, fully-equipped outside kitchens, and al fresco dining venues are increasingly popular among senior living communities for their social, intellectual, environmental, and occupational values. Produce made available through community herb or vegetable gardens and greenhouses can be used to create a farm-to-table experience and promote healthy eating.
Meeting seniors’ wellness needs transcends physical exercise and therapy activities. Today’s residents want greater opportunities to maintain and enhance their wellness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Senior living communities are looking to the natural environment to improve residents’ lives across the spectrum of wellness, helping to provide spaces to socialize and enjoy individual and group activities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.
For more about how wellness is evolving in the senior living arena, read our latest case study, Wellness in Independent Living, available through the Wellness resource page.
To learn how Wellness might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.